Archive for November, 2010

Daily Advent Reflection for December 1

November 30, 2010

“Love be our song and love our prayer, and love our endless story…” an excerpt from verse 4 of Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn.

When I was in 5th grade, I memorized I Corinthians 13 (the “love chapter” of the Bible) at camp.  I did it for the challenge — and because I was a geek– and (most of all) for the T-shirt!   I grew up in a UCC congregation, which though not liberal, was certainly not fundamentalist.  At camp that summer I first encountered the notion that I must pray to be “saved” and “take Jesus into my heart” otherwise I would go to hell.  Ironically, this initial exposure to fear-based religion also helped to kindle in me a fervent love for scripture.   It also introduced me to an incredibly passionate love for Jesus: when we sang those Gospel songs, we sang with all our hearts!   It’s hard to explain, but this singing filled a deep yearning in me.

This “ancient history” came to mind this evening in the midst of a Bible study on I Corinthians 13.  Studying this text reminded me that love– love for ourselves, love for our neighbors and families, love for the world, passionate, fervent, love–  is complex and imperfect, and absolutely most important thing.  Advent is, above all, about the way that the love of God comes to be born among us, and for us, and within us.  Advent is the story of a love that is big enough and wide enough and deep enough to embrace us all.


Daily Advent Reflection, November 30

November 29, 2010

Each winter as the year grows older, we all grow older too. The chill sets in a little colder; the verities I knew seem shaken and untrue.   / When race and class cry out for treason, when sirens call for war, they overshout the voice of reason, and scream till we ignore all we held dear before./  But I believe beyond believing, that life can spring from death; that growth can flower from our grieving; that we can catch our breath and turn transfixed by faith. / So even as the sun is turning to journey to the north, the living flame in secret burning, can kindel on the earth, and bring God’s love to birth. / O Child of estascy and sorrows, O Child of peace and pain, brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s renew our lives again; Christ Jesus, come and reign! words by William Gay

On Sunday, one of our elders gifted me with a conversation about the experience of aging.  She had read a striking article that confirmed her sense that old age as a wonderful time of life.   She acknowledged that, yes, it is hard to face the physical challenges of aging.  And, yes, it is terrible to lose a spouse and countless other loved ones.  And yet, she mused, for the first time in her life, she was free.  She could do whatever she wanted to do with her days.

The Advent hymn I quote here isn’t well-known, but I love it.  Life in this world confronts us continually with hard truths and real fears, but it also offers joy and delight at surprising times and in unexpected places.  Where, in this season of your life, do you see “the living flame in secret burning”?

Daily Advent Reflection for November 29

November 29, 2010

“To us, to all in sorrow and fear, Emmanuel comes a singing, whose humble song is quiet and near, yet fills the earth with its ringing.  Music to heal the broken soul and hymns of loving kindness, the thunder of the anthems roll to shatter all hate and injustice.”  (verse 2 of Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn by Marty Haugen)

I’ve been following the stories of violence in the powderhorn neighborhood: the 12 year old shot and paralyzed, and the mother and two children who were assaulted at gunpoint in the park.  Today’s Star Trib reported that neighbors are planning a gathering in the park this week.  “Instead of grief and outrage, participants have been asked to ‘bring music, art, puppets, laughter, hope and food’   The mother “said that she and her family are forgiving of the suspects, not much older than her children.  ‘I guess I might fall into despair, hopelessness and hatred sometime along my healing journey, but I can honestly say I don’t experience them right now,’ she wrote.  ‘My spiritual practices ground me in love and possibility.”   That’s Advent!  God’s love and healing and creativity dawns in our deepest night!

Daily Advent Reflection for November 28

November 28, 2010

This is the first of our daily Advent postings.  We will frame each brief reflection with a snippet from an Advent or Christmas hymn.  We hope you will join us, as we ponder what it looks to “make room” and “open doors” in our lives for the one who is coming.

Wake, awake, for night is flying!  (Philipp Nicolai, 1599)

This morning, I awoke at 4 am.  In the inky morning darkness, I delivered my partner and our 19 month old daughter to the airport.  They will spend a week at Holden Village, a retreat center in the mountains of Washington State.  I will miss them AND I will enjoy time and space for myself while they are away!  Advent calls us to cultivate a wakeful spirit.  Ironically, I find that to be awake, I must rest.  In order to engage an Advent attitude– alert yet calm, full of yearning and full of hope– I need to sleep and exercise and pray.   I’m making [more] room for this balance in my life this Advent.

Living “as if”…

November 28, 2010

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, First Sunday of Advent, 11/28/10; Matthew 24: 36-44

The snow falls, the darkness intensifies, the cold snaps. We have eaten ourselves into turkey comas and shopped ourselves silly. We rest cozily on our couches, curled up in a blanket, yearning to hear a comforting old story. Say, a tale that involves angels and shepherds, an infant born in a manger. A silent night, a joyful world… ahh!

Just as we settle in for long winter’s dreams of Bethlehem’s shining streets, today’s text intrudes with nightmarish scenes! People drown in floods and disappear into thin air. Friends and loved ones get “left behind”. Thieves break in!



November 23, 2010

A few weeks ago, a 12-year-old girl named Guadalupe Galeno-Hernandez was shot at 34th & Chicago in South Minneapolis.  Guadalupe survived the shooting but is likely paralyzed from the waist down.

Gaudalupe Galeno-Hernandez











I pass through this intersection on a virtually daily basis.  It’s on my path to 35W, the highway that takes me almost everywhere I need to go.  I was safe at home when this act of terrible violence took place.  I had no idea it happened for several days.  Now, when I drive past the site of the crime, there is no evidence I can see.  Just a “normal” house.


sermon 11/21/10

November 23, 2010

“All in the Family”

A sermon preached by the Rev. Abigail G. Henderson at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, UCC.

"Family Ties" by Anita Wood

Jer 23:2-6; Colossians 1:11-20

I have a friend here in Minneapolis who is flying home to St. Louis on Thanksgiving day.  I offered to give her an early-morning ride to the airport.  “I have to get up anyway to start the turkey,” I said.   She was surprised—“You’re doing the turkey?  Abby, I think you’re a real grown-up now!”  I responded that we should wait until after the meal to draw that conclusion.  If, by the end of the day, I’m not huddled in a corner, crying and clutching a scorched bird, then yes, I am a real grown-up!

Thanksgiving can be a fraught holiday!  As a first-time hostess, I’ve turned to the Internet for help and advice.  Not surprisingly, there is a wealth of resources out there for surviving this day of feasting and celebration.  A phrase I keep seeing is this:  “How to cope with blank on Thanksgiving.”  For example:  how to cope with grief on Thanksgiving.  With depression.  With overeating.  With IBS.  With an eating disorder.  Or, how to cope with divorced parents at Thanksgiving.  With having a college student at home.  With having too many guests.  With having too few.  With being alone.  And so it went on, link after link.



Divinely Inspired?

November 18, 2010

Listening to the radio last night, I caught most of a piece about a study called:  “The Old and New Politics of Faith: Religion and the 2010 Election.”  Here’s the full transcript:

What really grabbed my attention in this piece was this particular exchange:

SIEGEL: But when you speak of American exceptionalism in these terms, what are you speaking of?

Mr. GALSTON: Well, the idea that America is a chosen nation that has been singled out by God for a distinctive mission in     the world, we put a very strong version of that proposition on the table in this survey and 6 in 10 Americans affirmed it.       Indeed, 30 percent of people who probably don’t believe in God at all affirmed it. So, this is a remarkably persistent part of America’s cultural and political DNA that I think our political leaders ignore at their peril.


New Heavens/ New Earth

November 15, 2010

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride at First Congregational Church of MN

November 14, 2010; Isaiah 65: 17-25; Luke 21: 5-19

Saturday January 22, 2011, afternoon & early evening. Put it on your calendar. We First Churchers are good at thinking and talking … But on January 22nd, we’re intentionally starting with action, with engagement. We’ll divide into groups and go out to “engage” various people, organizations, or issues in our wider community. We’ll serve and listen and learn. We’ll return to the church to reflect on our action and engagement. We’ll close our day by sharing a meal and a brief time of worship. This “Day of Engagement”, facilitated by the Board of Christian Involvement will be the kickoff to our congregational visioning process. And this is only the beginning – February will bring a series of small group conversations.


Sermon 11/07/10: The Ever Rolling Stream

November 11, 2010

The Ever Rolling Stream

A sermon preached by the Rev. Abigail Henderson at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, UCC, on Nov. 7, 2010 (All Saints Day).

Job 19:23-27; Luke 6:20-31

When I was a little girl, my mother and I would go gravestone rubbing.  We’d walk to old New Hampshire cemeteries, some dating back to the 18th century.  I learned that early graves were laid out like beds—with a headstone and a footstone.   Graves always had different appearances and textures and levels of decay, depending on their material—be it slate, marble, granite, limestone.  The older the grave, the more it blended back into the earth.  These stones, though still and quiet and man-made, had a living, organic quality—coated as they were in moss and shaped by the elemental forces of wind, water, and time.